Tens of thousands of well-wishers took to the streets near the Royal Palace yesterday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the coronation of King Norodom Sihamoni.
An estimated 20,000 people watched as traditional dancers performed in front of the King, Prime Minister Hun Sen and an entourage of senior government officials seated conspicuously along the wall at the main entrance to the palace.
Members of the military, civil service and the public thronged through the park adjacent to the palace, singing nationalistic songs calling for the awakening of the Khmer people and the safeguarding of Cambodia’s territorial integrity – a theme that permeated the event.
King Sihamoni in his speech to the crowd thanked the Cambodian People’s Party government of Hun Sen for marking the anniversary, and urged the CPP and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to continue to work together for the sake of stability, development and national unity.
“I would like to express my respect and my appreciation to the senators, parliamentarians, the government and all leaders of the government’s ministries who organised the 10th anniversary of my coronation in a situation of political stability and fully-guaranteed national security,” he said.
“Given this opportunity, I would like to appeal to all Cambodian people to unite as one under the umbrella of the constitution and rule of law … no enemy will encroach on our territorial sovereignty while we are united as one.”
CNRP president Sam Rainsy yesterday welcomed the celebrations and the King’s role in ending the political deadlock in July, which had lasted since last year’s elections.
“The King is a symbol of national reconciliation, so the King helped facilitate all Khmer parties … to find a resolution for our nation,” he said.
Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong said during his speech that those involved in politics would “refrain from every activity that could cause a negative effect to national security, peace and public order”.
Cambodian political analyst Lao Mong Hay, while welcoming the King’s speech, questioned whether its message of unity would be heard in the halls of power.
“It’s a good message, but as always, it will fall on deaf ears,” he said.
King Sihamoni, he added, had been right to take a cautious approach to ending the political deadlock in July, but politicians’ praise of his subtle involvement seemed to be little more than lip service.
“He cannot use strength to push people. During the crisis, the King took initiative to get the leaders together. But I’m not so sure if they went back to report to the King. Words, it seems, have not been matched by deeds.”